tv Tavis Smiley PBS February 21, 2012 2:00pm-2:30pm PST
tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley. tonight, a conversation with one of the advertising world's most prominent women, charlotte beers, who also served as undersecretary of state for colin powell. she has a book about the business world and advice on how women can navigate their way to a successful career. the text is called "i'd rather be in charge." we are pleased to have advertising executive charlotte beers, coming up right now. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know. it's not just a street or boulevard, but a place where walmart stands together with your community to make every day better. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
tavis: charlotte beers began her career as j. walter thompson, rising to become the first female vice president in the company's history, and then she became ceo of ogilvy & mather before becoming undersecretary of state for colin powell. she is out with a new text, called "i'd rather be in charge ." "i'd rather be in charge: a legendary business leader's roadmap for achieving pride, power, and joy at work." it is a joy to have you on the program. >> that is the most assistant introduction i have ever had. -- the most st. -- succint.
tavis: the shorter it is, the more important you are. the president. >> it sounds like the obituary if you are too long. tavis: let me start by asking you two questions. one, what is the ultimate text for women, and then about men. >> i like both questions. what i am trying to do is get women past the threshold that we have now established that keeps them from moving more and more immigrants and circles of influence, and that drove me crazy. when i came out of the state department, i assumed that all of the women who were in the regulation would be taking their proper partnership role, and many did not make it. i saw that to some extent by putting my thinking about that
into this book. tavis: when you say their natural partnership role, what about that? >> that is confusing. not every woman is meant to be in the corner office, and very few men make it, but they should be partners with men in circles of influence everywhere. we will have a far better country. and the data is everywhere that they are not necessarily taking those roles. tavis: i get it. sick to your point now, since women have to work with men in the workplace, what is the message, the takeaway for men who read this text? >> i have two messages. i do not want to terrify them to see this is a book for them, too, but i think it is important for the men to read through the obstacle course for women. there is no conspiracy by men to block women. it is just that they are continuing on a course that they
find familiar. men are used to achieving their, and another thing i wanted to understand, not only what women face so they can deal better with opportunities for women, but the second half of the book is all about learning how to say what you mean and to say it persuasively, and i know many men who would benefit by that. tavis: when you said a minute ago that it was not a conspiracy, one of my favorite shows, "sanford and son of." i think that maybe fred would understand this. you said there is not a conspiracy on the part of men, and i know a bunch of women who would say right now that you are naïve back to think that men in this patriarchal society want them to get the quarter office. you cannot be serious. >> i am many things, but i am
not naïve. i have been in the field to zero long, and often i was the only woman in the room. a conspiracy to me means a large group of people lobbying against a certain outcome. i think men will do everything they can to win. not every man is ruthless, and they whirl -- will certainly run over a woman. what happens in this threshold that i have kind of invented in my mind and put in the book is that there is a point in time where the performance of the work is not the issue but the relationships that show you are a leader become paramount, and men are much better and more aggressive at expressing that than women, and in that sense, they are running past the women candidates, but that is not going to change with men, and what interests me is not willing
against that but preparing the women to compete. >> if there is not -- tavis: if there is not a conspiracy to keep the women back, then why do you argue in the text, as you do, that it is even harder now than at some previous point for women to get to the top level? only 12 of 500 of the top ceo's are women? so you can call it conspiracy, or you can call it a whole bunch of coincidences', but something is amiss here. >> i do not want to underestimate that, but i want to talk about -- instead of defining the problem, i would like to try to solve it. i have read many intelligent and inspiring books on what is keeping women back, and some of it is the sense of being lined up against bill losing mall. i think what is actionable is to
accept the fact that you will run across some very negative powers that keep you from playing, and the answer is you outplayed them. you outmaneuver them, and you present your credentials over and over until you win one, and i think women have a hard time understanding that in that threshold when the work seems to be important, and relationships, which are different from your relationships at home, become crucial. she can get ready, and once she gets ready, you cannot stop a woman like that. tavis: why is it harder now? >> because this is my theory, i'd did not live this, but i think it is harder because there is such a politically correct environment, which has been very helpful in many other ways, but men at the top do not actually know the women. they have not had that hang out time. they have not felt free to ask
them personal questions. the woman has not necessarily been in the game with them, so when he has got two men and one woman to choose from, he goes with what is most familiar. he can estimate the capacity of this guy, but he is not clear what she has done, and another underpinning of that is that women are applauded for being communal, modest -- i would like to hang that word out to dry, instead of fierce and brave and competitive, so the men looked easier to pick for leadership because we encourage women to be the opposite. tavis: i went to go back, charlotte, inside the test -- text,and i believe it is possible to get some pride in your work. power at work is possible for some, although that is relative. but the joy at work?
male and female, new experiences joy at work these days? >> whisper it is so much fun to work well. it is so easy to be exhilarating and be used up in a positive way. tavis: all of the data i have read is that no one is happy now. >> for instance, all of the guys who interviewed me for newspapers, they had their day jobs, and then they had another job. everyone is doing twice as much work with half the people. every single woman that i have been teaching in my executive classes start out by saying "i love my work. i love my work." and when you have that, you have the potential for joy. but i think the underpinning, especially for women who might have more opportunity for joy than men is discovering that you can work and use these other aspects of yourself. it is pretty thrilling to women,
but they need to feel they are using it, not being my fault. tavis: you started on something i want to go back to, namely that the kinds of relationships that women have a home and how they navigate those relationships is very different from melvin will successfully navigate relationships in the workplace. tell me more. >> i wish i had used your word, "navigate." that is the word. it is kind of a symptom of the issue, and it has become large in my mind. women seek to be liked and to be popular because that is their relationship pattern, and we love our women for that, but when you are in office, whether you are like is a fairly irrelevant, but are we going to work well together, and rb going to follow? the ultimate test of a leader is how persuasive are you, and the components of persuasiveness are
persuaded -- surprising. they are first that you are grounded in your own personal understanding of who you are. you do not believe someone if they are not authentic. the second thing, about mastering our full communication. this does not come to you in the ether. this is something new study. you have got it, but you probably did not have it day one. you work and you try and you practice, and you study it, and i think there are ways to learn that. with many people i have worked with. tavis: since you liked the word navigate, let me repeat it. how do women go through this line of being confident and being seen by men as being too aggressive. how do women, particularly in a patriarchal society, navigate that? >> well, i am sure i was called
that from time to time. tavis: not you. >> no, not me. well, i was a southern that they would find it hard to find out which way to turn that word. you do not know you have lost officeeg in charlotte's until you leave. i am not sure what that meant, but i think that was another version of the b word. as a woman, when you say "i cannot do this." or "this will not work." i think is hard to see a woman being like that unless that is her natural habitat. for example, when women do not like other women in business, chances are the woman has learned only one way, harsh, do not like her, and i think you can earn that title by beating someone you are not, or you can
earn the title because you are really going to get something done, and you get some flak. i had some people who simply did not agree with what i was doing, and i accepted the fact. it hurts the. once at all the -- at ogilvy, i had a group formed to oust me. i think, tavis, what we all do when we are up against an emotional conundrum like that, you think, what is this doing at work? it feels so personal. and then you learn to put it on the shelf and extrapolate out of it what matters about it, and what i chose to do in my experience, i did not think it through which to i went back to the person who was my in former, and i said, "do not tell me who they are. i cannot afford to be diverted." and so, if you ask most men, they would say, "i would hammer
them peer " i think it is ok, because the one thing i was putting my and -- my energy towards, the company vision, that was primary, and i also did the arithmetic. if we did the mission, i was fine, and if we did not, i was cooked anyway, and then i took on an evil kabbalah after that, as i call it. -- i took on the evil after that. tavis: the difference between women trying to work their way around men versus women trying to work their way around women. the difference is what? >> here is the thing. i do not know as much about the women to women think, because so much of the time, i was trying to interpret and decode men and management, said that as more and more women came, it is easy for me to feel like i could bring them along.
it was very rewarding. what the women tell me that i have been working with is that there are always some notoriously difficult women bosses, and what i think it comes from is that time when they are really in the world of men, and they have to be downright weird twist to even be heard, and then there is another quality. it is kind of like scarcity. if there is going to be someone chosen, and there are two women, they will only pick one woman. they may pick five men. they see the woman as a competitor instead of the five men. this is something i worked on in the book. you need to focus on you and what you need to present about yourself. it takes you away from that narrow world. tavis: "mad men."
a great show. you grew up in the advertising world. >> there was not that much smoke around. i am sure i did not see all of that sex. tavis: i am sure it was there, trust me. >> my secretary said that i was the dumbest woman on the floor. tavis: i raise that to ask you how you survived that, but in your case, it was not just surviving but thriving. >> well, i did communicate that i like men. i have two really a adorable brothers who beat me into the ground, so heavy teasing was part of my history. i think that was a huge advantage, because once the guys were teasing me at the office, i have seen real teasing, so they were amateurs, and i had a sense of humor, and that allowed me to
take more likely some of the things that women feel of a bridge about, and i think that is an advantage, and i do encourage women to be not so serious. the men are laughing in the hall. they are being series because they think that is how people will take them serious, and i think the group of women together make that mistake because also they are serious about competing, so i had that advantage, and the men thought i was a one off and that they did not have to worry about it, so i have a lot of freedom, oddly enough, to invent myself. >> where is the line between yucking it up among guys and sexual harassment? >> that line is so subtle, and i would think i was talking with my friend, and i was talking with a potential seducer. that is very -- there are all
kinds of safety nets. i would never go out with my clients and stay past 10:00. i always had somebody with me, and i slipped away. those are the times where things slip away, and i was very defensive about it, i think, and occasionally, i would get trapped. there was a situation where i got trapped in a hotel with a man that i had known for two hours. what i learned from that is that we are all honorable, and i thought i was a ceo and on scalable, but that was not true. tavis: i love the way you phrased it, but i am going to mess it up now, but how do you signal to meant that you like them but not that you like them? because i am a man, i can speak as a man. -she really liked me, or is she just being nice i was on an
airplane the other day, and i could not tell if the stewardess liked me or if she liked me. >> what were you expecting? tavis: i got off of the airplane without pursuing anything. i say that because i know how men are. a woman gives a signal, and you are trying to figure out if that is a signal or if that is a signal. how do you send the signal that you like you but do not like you? >> there is a constant calibration. southern women are a little bit flirtatious, but our whole point is that this is for fun, and i think a man can enjoy that and not take it wrong, and so if i felt like it was getting misinterpreted, then i would immediately start talking about my daughter. i would ground myself in my home life, and when it was very difficult for me, when i was
divorced, because that signal suggests open sesame on dates and flirtation, and i developed a very careful way of watching when the line camera. i think women usually know before the men wear the inclination is going, and you can make a move. sometimes, you get trapped, and that is why i told my one story about harassment, because the women tell me today that it is more subtle, and they have to be alert, and there is a great deal less of it in the sense that anything goes, but you can still get blindsided, and i warn them about that. i ended up in the company apartment inadvertently. no one would have understood my story, because it was so stupid of me to go up, but i was not thinking like that. tavis: you referenced two or
three times in this conversation home life, family life. there are some powerful questions you suggest in the text that women have to ask themselves. a lot of it comes to mind immediately, what did you learn from your siblings? why is that an important question? >> well, the proposition there is that i hit a wall early in my career to have it work for me. i actually was in despair, and i realized that i knew how to work, but i did not know myself, and the reason i had to learn in a hurry about myself is because i was really frightened every night about the job i had before me the next day, because there was drugs and booze and huge debt, and angry clients, not just unhappy, so the idea that i knew how to handle those did not seem to be possible, so i
began to learn who i was. at the same time, i began to try to help the agency steer itself, and as i look back on the process, because i could not articulate that to anyone else, i ended up drafting these questions, and i only learned of those questions after the fact when i went through, and you go back and see what messages and habits you are carrying forward, because we are all born with those things, and the siblings, if you had them, or if you have the equivalent sometimes, they will teach you what life is like. i will never forget realizing that men have more fun, that men have the right to earn money and therefore have more control over their lives, and i did not seem to have that, so i ended up taking math and physics in college just so i could have a shot at their world, said that is important.
and my brother said that bravery is good, but failure is inevitable. to never quit running away. i thought this guy is tough. i thought i could find my way to bravery. tavis: my time runs out. let me ask you about all of these lessons in side of corporate america, how that in any way aided and abetted you in engaging public diplomacy inside the state department? >> well, i grew dom again. i will say that with every new job you did, it can drop you to your knees. when i was being interviewed at the white house, and the last interview is a token interview, and i turned to a woman and said, "do you have any advice for me." and she said to remember the 50% of the people, and i reverted
back to the fifth grade. they do not even know me. that is a childlike response, and, in fact, i knew a lot about communication, and i certainly knew about the charter to create mutual understanding, and i did not do as good a job at understanding the powerful place of politics, where if you do not share my ideology, i do not like you. i am not going to work with you, and i am not going to help you. i had this naive idea that we would edit common goal for a grand america, and i had to correct. that is the toughest job i have ever had, but i would never traded for another. tavis: charlotte beers was undersecretary at the state department under colin powell, as we were just discussing, and she had a long and distinguished career, working with ogilvy &
mather. and her book is "i'd rather be in charge," a title that does not need any explanation. "i'd rather be in charge: a legendary business leader's roadmap for achieving pride, power, and joy at work." charlotte beers, i enjoyed the conversation immensely. that is our show tonight. we will see you next time. until then, good night, and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. join me next time for a conversation with the author "what is the matter with kansas." that is next time. we will see you then. >> every community has a martin luther king boulevard. it's the cornerstone we all know.